The first pay-per-view after WrestleMania is never an easy one to book, with the fallout and shift in priorities not always resulting in quality entertainment. Payback may have very well reflected this more than recent years, with there being some amazing ups as well as some devastating downs. Despite being a Raw exclusive pay-per-view, the fallout of WrestleMania and the recent Superstar Shake-up also meant that we got a couple of matches that featured SmackDown Live talent, leaving some questions on the booking of this event heading in.
WARNING! There will be spoilers beyond this point.
The kickoff show saw Enzo Amore and Big Cass take on Luke Gallow and Karl Anderson in a match that I doubt many fans were excited for. Having become the forgotten parties of the astounding fatal four-way ladder match from WrestleMania, these two teams have found it hard to build any form of momentum. Ultimately this transitioned into the match itself, as despite there being some captivating moments, the overall product felt too confined and rushed. As for the outcome, it was unsurprisingly Enzo and Cass that left with the win, as despite Gallows and Anderson dominating the majority of the bout, Enzo would roll-up Gallows for the 1, 2, 3.
(5.5 / 10)
The first match on the main card saw Kevin Owens put the United States Championship on the line against Chris Jericho, in a match where if Jericho won he’d be moving to SmackDown Live. Much like their WrestleMania bout, the two put on a spectacular back and forth contest, mixing things up from last time around. The early portion of the match was very back and forth, with both Jericho and Owens having the upper hand at one point or another. Things would, however, eventually turn in Jericho‘s favour, as following a clever bit of continuity involving Owens getting one finger on the rope, Y2J would injure KO’s hand preventing him from performing his signature Pop-up Powerbomb. This lead to Jericho locking in the Walls of Jericho making Owens tap out.
(8.5 / 10)
Another WrestleMania rematch would follow this as the Cruiserweight Champion, and King of the Cruiserweights, Neville once again put the gold on the line against Austin Aries. Unlike the previous bout, however, this rematch didn’t quite live up to their prior encounter. The cause for this was ultimately a lack of ring time with the end result coming a little too sudden. As for what we did get, it was somewhat impressive, with both men showcasing their talent. It was, however, Neville that would leave the champion getting disqualified by pulling at the referee whilst in the Last Chancery.
(5.5 / 10)
The third title match of the night came next as the recently returned Hardy Boyz (Matt and Jeff) put their Raw Tag Team titles on the line against Sheamus and Cesaro. Showing a much rougher side, so much so that Sheamus actually knocked out one of Jeff‘s teeth, the challengers definitely brought the fight to the champions. This domination would continue as the match progressed, as even when Matt got involved, the champions found little answer. That said, The Hardyz did turn things around near the end, with Jeff hitting Sheamus with a Swanton Bomb following a blind tag to retain the titles. After the match was over, and apparent sportsmanship from the losers, Sheamus and Cesaro would take their frustrations out of the champions brutally beating them up.
(9 / 10)
Continuing the trend of title matches, our fourth and final championship bout of the night would come next, with Bayley looking to defend her Raw Women’s title against former SmackDown Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss. Heading into this match I honestly didn’t expect to be overly impressed, with it seeming like an easy win for Bayley. Bliss would, however, quickly remind us why she’s a former two-times champion, getting the upper hand of Bayley. Things would eventually start to turn in the champions favour, getting a near fall following an elbow from the top rope. When all was said and done, however, it was Bliss that would pick up an upset title victory, pinning Bayley following a DDT after she’d hit her head off the ring post.
(8 / 10)
The mysterious House of Horrors match between WWE Champion Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt came next, with us finally finding out what this contest would entail. Starting in Wyatt‘s “House of Horrors” (a rundown house full of junk and ritual like objects) the match would eventually make its way to the ring turning into a more traditional No Holds Barred match. Overall the first portion of this match rather impressed me, as despite probably being underwhelming for the fans in attendance, it worked brilliantly on screen. The transition between the two sections, on the other hand, felt rather weak, with the wait between bouts and convenient reappearance of Orton (who’d been left with a fridge on top of him) taking away from the solid start. Things would continue to go downhill from here, as despite it looking as if we were getting a stellar No Holds Barred match, The Singh Brothers (Sunil and Samir) and Jinder Mahal would interject themselves into the contest helping Wyatt pick up the win following a Sister Abigail.
(6.5 / 10)
In between the House of Horrors match we got Seth Rollins taking on the man who injured him prior to WrestleMania, Samoa Joe. Despite Rollins having the early advantage, hitting Joe with a flurry of explosive moves, it was The Destroyer that dominated most of the match, focusing on Rollins previously injured knee. This would lead to a thrilling battle between the two, with the determination of Rollins being present despite Joe‘s dominance. This desire to win ultimately paid off for The Kingslayer, as after a couple of attempts from Joe to put him in the Coquina Clutch, Rollins would use Joe‘s weight against him to get the three count.
(8 / 10)
The main event saw Roman Reigns look to get a measure of revenge against the Mountain Among Men, Braun Strowman, who brutally beat him a few weeks ago. Coming out of the gates firing on all cylinders, Reigns got in some big shots early on, but it would be Strowman that dominated the majority of the match. Reigns would get another chance to gain the advantage during the middle portion of the match hitting a Drive By Kick and a Spear, getting a near three count. Despite all this, Strowman would quickly turn things around once more, catching Reigns with a Lifting Arm Triangle Choke, following up with two Running Powerslams to pick up the victory. This wasn’t the end of the action, however, as Strowman would continue to attack Reigns, hitting him with the steel steps and slamming him down on them.
(7 / 10)
Payback may have been a bit of a mixed bag, but it was ultimately a solid pay-per-view to follow WrestleMania. Featuring some surprising outcomes, a rather strange match concept in the House of Horrors, as well as both strong and weak outcomes elsewhere, the event certainly gave us some huge talking points.